Terror in the Classroom: What Can Be Done?, Part 3

Who is a cyberbully? Part three of four.
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A Look at Cyberbully

Of those that reported that they had been cyberbullied, over 50 percent reported the cyberbullying lasted on average 2-4 days, while approximately 30 percent lasted a week or longer. Over 41 percent of the time cyberbullying took place with instant messaging, chat rooms and blogs (MySpace, Xanga, Facebook, Bebo, etc). In addition, 35 percent reported that e-mail was used to cyberbullied them.

Of those students that reported being bullied, 59 percent of the time they were teased or called names, 47 percent were lied about, 35 percent were threatened and 30 percent had were sexually harassed. Almost half of those who were cyberbullied said additional bullying followed the initial episode. A total 35 percent of the victims kept the bullying to themselves while 30 percent told a friend, one person told a parent and no one told a teacher. However, angry, depressed and hurt were the top three emotions experienced (averaging over 3 points on a 5 point scale).

Cyberbullies

In the meantime, cyberbullying students admitted to being feeling moderately insecure, invaded, scared and isolated (averaging 2.4 points on a 5 point scale).

The most reported reasons those that admitted to cyberbullying (14/59) gave were out of revenge (57 percent) and anger (43 percent) while 21 percent admit to cyberbullying because they did not like the other person. When asked how the cyberbullying take place, the results are similar to the ones reported by victims of cyberbullying: 43 percent by instant messaging or chat rooms and 36 percent by e-mails or blogs. A total 86 percent of the cyberbullies admit to cyberbullying from home. Over 78 percent reported they were not confronted while only 2 people out of 14 report they were confronted by their parent(s).

All Students Reactions to Cyberbullying

Almost 80 percent of the 59 students surveyed are aware of cyberbullying with nearly 100% of the girls and 65% of the boys admitting awareness. The survey results also showed that students feel extremely comfortable talking to their friends (4.4 points on a 5 point scale). Students feel moderately comfortable talking with parents and teachers (2.7 and 2.6 points respectively) and least comfortable talking to Principals (1.9 points). So when asked , "overall, how much of a problem is cyberbullying," 21 percent the students reported cyberbullying is not a problem, 17.5 percent feel it's a minor problem, 35 percent feel it's a common problem and 26.5 percent say cyberbullying is a major problem.

Discussion

This study confirms other studies (Opinion Research, (2006) on the prevalence of cyberbullying in that about a third (29%) admitted to being bullied with half of them reporting that additional bullying accompanied the initial cyberbullying. Research finds a connection between bullies, cyberbullies and their victims. Bullies, compared to non-bullies, were more likely to be cyberbullies; while victims of physical bullying were more likely to be victims of cyberbullying (Li, 2006). By not addressing the teasing, name calling and gossip at school, they can become more prevalent and dangerous in cyberspace. The researcher found 59 percent of victims were teased or called names, 47 percent were lied about and 30 percent were sexually harassed.

Schools need to educate students in how to handle bullying. It was found that 57 percent of the cyberbullying was out of revenge, while 41 percent of the time it was out of anger. In the same survey, some students suggested to "just ignore it" and hope it goes away. Before schools can expect teenagers to have "netiquette", using the internet properly, and treat others well, they need to be taught appropriate non-harassment behavior. Within the past couple of years, programs and resources have been made available on how schools can deal with cyberbullying (see p.16 for resources links). Further information about these resources needs to get into the hands of parents and educators.

A third important issue is the failure of victims informing a parent, teacher or other adult of the cyberbullying. Even thought previous research indicated the number of teenagers who tell a parent or adult is already low (Wiseman, 2007; MSN UK, 2006) but it was still unexpected to find that 16 out of the 17 of those admitting to being cyberbullied did not tell an adult. Those who were not bullied reported that they feel somewhat comfortable talking to their parent(s) about cyberbullying, while extremely comfortable talking to their friends. These findings, along with stories like Ryan Halligan (the 13-yr old who took his life), suggest the need to increase the awareness of parents and other interested adults such as teachers and school administrators.

Coming next week, Part 4: How to stop cyberbullying

Ryan E. Winter is an 8th grade Teacher at Excel Charter Academy. Dr. Robert J. Leneway is the education technology unit coordinator at Western Michigan University.

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